Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend an informational meeting hosted by Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. During this meeting, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren introduced the county’s new RIDR initiative (Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism). The purpose of the RIDR program is to “target and reduce impaired driving by imposing enhanced sanctions…on first-time, non-aggravated DUI offenders.” While area defense counsel expressed some concerns with implementation, the potential benefits of this program have potential to outweigh the costs and are certainly worth reading about and discussing with a local defense attorney.
Who Qualifies for the New Program?
While the State Attorney’s Office reserves the right to evaluate each case individually, the default eligibility criteria requires:
- The case to be a misdemeanor DUI;
- No minor was present in the car, no BAC of .20 or higher, and no crash;
- Client has no pending or prior DUI, reckless driving, driving while license suspended (DWLS) with serious bodily injury or death, vehicular homicide, DUI diversion program as an adult, or in the previous five years, no adjudication or withhold for a felony; and
- No pending participation in Pre-Trial Intervention or probation
So for the most part, those first-time DUI clients with no major criminal history are good candidates for this program.
What Does the Program Require?
Clients approved for eligibility are assigned one of three sanction levels:
- Level 1: BAC less than or equal to .15
- Level 2: BAC above .15 and below .20 (or no breath sample provided)
- Level 3: Drug-related DUIs
After determining the sanction level, clients must waive speedy trial at arraignment and agree to schedule the case for approximately 60 days out. During those 60 days, clients must provide proof of completion of Pre-Plea Sanctions. Pre-Plea Sanctions require clients of ALL sanction levels to:
- Stay crime-free;
- Complete DUI school or recommended treatment;
- Attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel; and
- Complete ten community service hours.
Sanction Level 1 and Level 2 clients must additionally provide proof of installation of an ignition interlock device or a continuous alcohol monitoring device. Sanction Level 3 clients must not possess or consume any alcohol or illegal drugs and use a PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch (with results provided to the prosecutor).
Upon completion of the Pre-Plea Sanctions, a client can accept a plea offer to receive a sentence in accordance with the RIDR program. The two major benefits to this plea offer are that the DUI charge is dropped to a reckless driving and most importantly that there is a withhold of adjudication. A withhold of adjudication means that there is no formal conviction. This is an important distinction. On a job application for instance, a client with a withhold of adjudication would not need to respond “Yes” to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” A withhold of adjudication also leaves open the possibility of “sealing” the case later; potentially removing it from public view.
Those plea offer benefits, however, are not without their costs. The plea offer includes some further sanctions:
- Twelve months of probation;
- Court costs and conditions of probation;
- Ten day vehicle immobilization;
- No possession or consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs while on probation;
- Successful completion of DUI school; and
- Community service and drug/alcohol monitoring:
- Level 1 offender: 50 community service hours and three months of ignition interlock
- Level 2 offender: 75 community service hours and six months of ignition interlock
- Level 3 offender: 50 community service hours and three months of PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch
Not every case is the same. For some clients, this RIDR program serves as a good opportunity to put a one-time DUI behind them. Other DUI cases however may have legal issues regarding the reasonableness of the stop, the validity of the breath testing results, or complex driver’s license issues that make trial the best option.